Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Anthony Martial is going through a “difficult patch” but is pleased with the forward’s work ethic.
Martial was United’s top scorer in all competitions last season with 23 goals but has found the back of the net just seven times so far this term.
Despite registering eight assists, the France international has struggled for consistency and has often been criticised by pundits and supporters for his work rate and movement.
However, Solskjaer, whose side advanced to the last 16 of the Europa League by knocking out Real Sociedad on Thursday night, is pleased with Martial’s recent efforts and has backed the 25-year-old to improve his form.
“Anthony knows what we want and he’s working really hard to do well for the team – that’s what’s pleasing me,” Solskjaer said.
“I see him every day in training. He’s not going to sit down and wait for things to happen, he knows he’ll have to make it happen himself.
“We encourage him, we coach him and we know he’s got the quality and class.
“Everyone goes through a difficult patch at times. I think we saw [against Real Sociedad] he’s working harder and that’s the main thing.”
Ole: Top-four race will go down to wire
After one win in five Premier League matches, United moved back into second place by beating Newcastle 3-1 last weekend but remain 10 points behind Manchester City with 13 games of the season remaining.
Solskjaer’s side return to league action with a trip to Chelsea on Sunday, before a game at Crystal Palace next Wednesday and then the Manchester derby on March 7, all available to watch live on Sky Sports.
Asked if he believes the top-four race will go down to the wire, Solskjaer said: “Yeah I think so. I think it’s going to be a long run in.
“I don’t think the positions will be decided early. With this season as well, it’s unpredictable. We’ve seen teams going through bad phases, then a run.
“Who knows what’s going to happen with injuries, with how players react to the circumstances, because it’s the shortest long season ever, with loads of games.
“So for me, every game is massive and of course Chelsea we know how difficult that’s going to be and how important it’s going to be for us.”
‘Hopefully we can stop Tuchel’s run’
Thomas Tuchel is unbeaten in eight matches since replacing Frank Lampard as Chelsea head coach at the end of January.
Chelsea were ninth in the table and 11 points behind United when Lampard was sacked but are now fifth and just six points adrift of Solskjaer’s side.
“We know Thomas has come in, he’s changed a little bit at Chelsea, so it’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Solskjaer said.
“You can see the results, you can see the stats, the possession they’ve had – keep teams away from their own goal, keep the possession.
“So he’s done really well. It’s never easy coming into a season halfway through, so he must be pleased as well. Hopefully we can stop that run – that’s my job now.”